Your 50 For Conservation

50Swaziland and BIG GAME PARKS celebrated 50 years of conservation this year! The beginning of this week marked  50 days to the end of the year.  We successfully  launched our “Your 50” campaign at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday 10th November, attended by media and conservation ambassadors from Hlabazonkhe Primary School and Malindza High School.

Big Game Parks has contributed 50- years to Swazi conservation.  What is Your50?

We invite you to contribute to Swaziland’s conservation through participation. Big Game Parks challenges everyone to get creative and choose 50 ways in which to make a difference to our environment before the end of 2014. Pledge Your 50 and Challenge your neighbour!

 

Visit our Facebook page Big Game Park  for ideas – and share yours!

Tweet us @BigGameParks

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Roan Antelope Project enters 2nd Phase

Two radio collared Roan Antelope (lithakayezi) bulls have recently been released at Mkhaya Game Reserve and their progress is being monitored by park Rangers. Both animals have been seen regularly since their release. This is a significant event as it signals the next step in the phased Roan Antelope breeding programme based at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Roan Antelope are amongst the rarest antelope in Southern Africa.

Swaziland’s Roan Antelope became locally extinct in 1961 when Ted Reilly found the last animal caught in a poachers wire snare on the Tsabokhulu stream near Tabankulu. The species is known to have historically occurred (among other areas) along the foothills of the Mdumezulu Mountains, the Lubombos and the Lowveld flats of Hlane. The last herd of 12 roan on the farm “Forbes ranch” (now Hlane Royal National Park) were poisoned during the 1930s and were a casualty of the former British Administration’s campaign to eradicate wildebeest from Swaziland in order to “tame the land” for agriculture and development.

Re-Introduction

During the 1980’s a small group of Roan Antelope were re-introduced to Mkhaya from Namibia. Unfortunately, being from such vastly different climates, and due to limited knowledge of roan introductions at the time, the re- introduction was not successful. The remaining animals were moved to Mlilwane, where they joined a group of Roan that had been imported from the Marwell Zoo in England and the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic with the assistance of the charity “Back to Africa”, to bolster the species re-introduction efforts in Swaziland’s protected areas.

Under specialized management at Mlilwane, the Roan Antelope numbers have now grown to a point where the options for the best protocol to re-establish a wild population are being investigated.

Roan are known to be very sensitive to loss of grass cover from competing grazers. Once grass cover is lost, their calves become very prone to predation and the adults suffer from nutritional challenges as their highly selective feeding requirements are affected. Roan are also very susceptible to ticks which makes this a particularly difficult animal to re-introduce to the wild in sub-tropical areas .

It is for this reason that the two bulls which are 2nd generation Swazi born, were chosen and fitted with radio collars before they were released. Through the use of the collars, rangers will be able to determine the animals’ movements and preferred habitats. It is anticipated that lessons can be learned and knowledge gained from these two animals before a larger Breeding group is committed to release in pursuance of Big Game Parks objective of re-establishing viable populations of Swaziland’s wildlife. In the case of sensitive species which are rare and therefore have small founder populations, Big Game Parks considers such re-introduction projects to run over an approximately 30 year period.

Doing it for the Game

Rugby Team collecting litter at Hlane
Rugby Team collecting litter at Hlane

Recently Big Game Parks and SKRUM Swaziland have partnered in an initiative to collect  litter at Hlane Royal National Park and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This project will see the national rugby team  collecting litter every six weeks at each park . Here we have pictures of the team collecting litter at Hlane Royal National Park .

Save the Game, do not litter at the Parks

BGP Intensifies Anti Rhino Poaching Effort

BGP Intensifies Rhino Poaching EffortIn response to the escalating threat of rhino poaching in Swaziland, Big Game Parks (BGP) has introduced the use of dogs in the fight against poaching. This is one of a number of strategies which BGP has employed recently to increase the effectiveness of rhino protection.

Anti-Poaching Dogs
BGP has recently partnered with Almanac Publishers and Stoprhinopoaching.com to send a number of rangers and dogs to attend an extended anti-poaching course, where they received specialised training over a number of months. The dogs are specially trained to assist the Rangers in various anti-poaching situations, and to enhance the effectiveness of day to day anti-poaching operations directed at protecting rhinos and other wildlife in the country.

“It is hoped that the use of the dogs will increase the success rate in anti-poaching operations, and further lead to a suppression of all forms of poaching and illegal activities on the parks, especially those that house Swaziland’s rhinos. BGP will continue to explore all legal avenues that can be used in the fight against poaching as we expect that increasing levels of criminal attention will be paid to Swaziland’s rhinos as the conflict escalates to warfare with a sharply rising human and rhino body count in South Africa, and the criminal syndicates look for alternative perceived soft targets”, said Mick Reilly of Big Game Parks.

Reward
BGP has also recently offered a substantial reward to anybody who comes forward with information with leads to the arrest and conviction of any suspect who is planning to poach rhinos in Swaziland. Rewards also stand to benefit informants of wildlife product traffickers who use Swaziland as a conduit for illegal wildlife products poached elsewhere.

“We would prefer to have rhinos alive and breeding with only a few people in jail who have been made an example of through the deterrent custodial sentences proscribed in the Game Act, before they commit the crime of killing any rhinos, rather than many suspects passing through our jails and Swaziland losing all her rhinos anyway. Swaziland’s Game Act is preventative in nature and is tough on trafficking and poaching, and it is hoped that poaching levels will remain under control. It is of utmost importance that the law enforcement effort is consistent throughout the process from the intelligence gathering phase to arresting the suspects and processing them through the courts in a manner that creates a clear disincentive to poach and traffic. Mozambique is the only country to hold the dubious record of having had rhinos go extinct for a 3rd time. If Swaziland is to avoid a second extinction, then a Zero tolerance towards poaching must be exercised, and this requires a dedicated team effort from the Rangers in the bush through to the Judges of the courts of appeal!” Reilly continued.

Dangerous
“Poachers, and Rhino Poachers in particular, are extremely determined and dangerous criminals. By the very nature of their gruesome trade, groups of poachers have to be heavily armed to deal with their targeted animals – and any Rangers that dare stand in their way. While law enforcement agencies are bound by rules of engagement and due processes, these criminals operate outside all laws except possibly at times those rules of their illegal trade as dictated by their criminal syndicate masters. While International boundaries served to curtail law enforcement activities through bureaucracy, the poaching syndicates use these to their advantage, crossing borders as and when they please.” Reilly continued.

The public at large is urged to assist with Swaziland’s conservation efforts by promptly providing the required information to avoid the levels of poaching taking root in Swaziland, that South Africa is now seeing,” Reilly concluded.

  • Rhino Poaching Hotline – 00268 76500501
  • 00268 76043867
  • poachingalerts@biggameparks.org

More than Gold: The Rhino Rescue Project

Swaziland’s proud 20 year rhino record was recently shattered with the loss of a young female rhino and her calf at Hlane Royal National Park. Big Game Parks was touched by the level of support from local, regional and international supporters who greatly lamented this loss. One such supporter, Melinda MacInnis, stepped up and, along with her highly-respected team, is currently making a documentary showing how the Rhino Wars have been brought back to Africa, and how the fate of Swaziland’s (and the world’s) rhino population hangs in the balance.

These truly majestic animals represent some of our planet’s last great megafauna and stand as a symbol of what our species is doing to every other. Rhinos have existed on this planet for millions of years and have always  been a part of the human experience, sparking our imagination and wonder. And now because some have decided that their horns are worth more than gold, we are about to wipe them out.

Through education, legislation, and the development of a global voice, we aspire to bring rhinos back from the brink of extinction. Melinda has already finished filming in Swaziland and is now in the post-production phase. Because everyone has so far worked for free (most especially John Mans, the Emmy-nominated, veteran nature and adventure cinematographer) or for drastically reduced rates, Melinda’s been able to capture something really remarkable and worthy of reaching as large an audience as possible, and now they just need that final push!

Please help spread the word of this project to turn the tide for the world’s rhinos!

How you can help